Growing up, I constantly heard how unappealing I was. The traits I had were deemed unattractive: brown hair, glasses, small breasts, large hips, bubble butt, and a loud laugh. My sister had the opposite traits and so was considered worthy. I desperately wanted to be worthy.
I tried to fit the beauty standard, but it just wouldn’t happen. Fortunately, I went to college. I discovered womens studies, and learned to question many basic assumptions. As I learned and grew, I rejected those childhood notions about what was beautiful. I renounced high-heel shoes. At 5’2″, heels could be beneficial, but every time I wore them, my back locked up. I’d take a step forward, and be frozen in place. Once the pain eased, I could continue walking. My high heels went into the trash.
I quit wearing makeup. My sister lived by the “never appear in public” without makeup principle. Even at 10 years of age, this idea seemed ridiculous to me. Feeling so ugly that you couldn’t be around others without makeup seemed to be such a sad idea that I refused to follow it. So I only wore makeup occasionally. I wish I could say that I quit wearing makeup to make a political statement, but the real reason is that if I don’t do something everyday, I forget to do it at all. After dressing up and forgetting to wear makeup a few times, I threw my makeup in the trash.
I also rejected clothes that were uncomfortable, but “looked good”. I was on a roll: my decisions were being shaped by comfort and convenience, not by patriarchal standards of beauty. For the first time in my life, I was developing healthy self esteem. But then, I got fat. Then I got thin, and then got fat again, and so on. I am now considered obese, and my body image is terrible. All the feminist theory I’ve read and thought about over the years is still with me. On an intellectual level, I believe that my body is as good as and as beautiful as anyone else’s. On an emotional level, it’s a different story. I don’t like going out into public anymore. I never sought attention when I was thin, but I dread any attention now. If only I could become invisible.
My 37th birthday is rapidly approaching. Yet my body image matches the way I felt about myself at age 5, 10, 15, and 20. As at age 5, I feel ugly and unacceptable. I’ve grown so much as woman; I’ve come so far. I reject societal pressure for women to fit one physical model. But I still feel ugly, and it still matters to me. I’m furious that I feel this way. I’m enraged that it still matters to me.
I hate the patriarchy.